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Commercial litigation & dispute resolution

11 March 2011

What does the team do?

The team covers a great variety of work between its members. This ranges from debt recovery to complex contractual disputes for small to large businesses, right through to insolvency work for a variety of insolvency practitioners.

What type of work does a trainee do?

The type of work a trainee in this seat does varies a great deal depending on who in the team you are assisting. Whilst you have one main supervisor who is always on hand for any general issues or queries that arise as you are training, the rest of the team are always happy to chat through work they have given you and its wider relevance.

Debt recovery work has provided an opportunity to gain experience in the litigation process whilst pursuing relatively straightforward debts due to our clients. It has given me the opportunity to not only draft claim forms and particulars of claim but also to pursue the process through to obtaining judgment and considering which method of enforcement would be most appropriate when considering the debtor’s circumstances.

I have worked on simple contractual disputes from the point of view of both claimant and defendant, but have also conducted a fair bit of research into various elements of contractual disputes in order to assist the team in more complex disputes.

A trainee will also get to assist on insolvency matters, ranging from drafting documents for the voluntary winding up of a company to drafting an urgent winding up petition for a company that owes your client money.

In assisting other members of the team I have also gained experience in drafting instructions to experts, part 36 offers and open letters, witness statements and applications. Because the team cover all aspects of commercial litigation I have also had the chance to investigate quite obscure points, such as the enforcement of foreign judgments, or how to go about obtaining money for our client that has been held in the Court Funds Office for years!

What level of responsibility/hands on experience (i.e. manage your own files etc) does a trainee receive?

A trainee in this seat is trusted and expected from quite early on to use their own initiative in assessing what the next step needs to be and any problems/issues that might arise. This is obviously subject to supervision to ensure that what goes out to the client is perfect!

Whilst the majority of work I have done has been smaller elements of a file that another team member is managing, on some of the simpler matters such as debt recovery I have been expected to look after the day-to-day running of the file.

In terms of hands-on experience, I have been trusted to discuss with clients the various options available to them and on more than one occasion have had the chance to negotiate a settlement for our client (under close supervision of course)!

How much client contact does a trainee get?

The contact you will get tends to be with other solicitors/courts/counsel and the majority of client contact I have had has tended to be over the telephone. However, I have also had the opportunity to attend client meetings and the team will give you the opportunity to liaise with a client wherever possible.

What has been the highlight for you in this seat?

A personal highlight has been getting the chance to negotiate a settlement for a client. It ended with the result we wanted and ensured the client didn’t have to dedicate more time and stress to following the matter further. It was great to be trusted with this level of responsibility and to get a chance to improve my negotiation skills. Certainly something you wouldn’t get with some firms!

Generally, this seat is a great opportunity to work with a team who expect you to take the initiative and recognise it when you do so.